Hidilyn Diaz is aware that she’s being referred to as an “ate” by the younger Filipino Olympians in the recent 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
But make no mistake about it. The 30-year-old weightlifting star from Zamboanga actually has no qualms whatsoever being viewed as much.
“Kailangan ko sigurong tanggapin na tumatanda ako — tumatanda ako with experience sa sports,” she told the Phillippine Sportswriters Association Forum webcast, Tuesday.
Diaz is undeniably the most experienced among the 19-strong Philippine contingent in this Summer Games, having competed in her fourth Olympiad already. And she believes that it is mainly why her fellow athletes look at her that way.
“Naka-apat ako (Olympics),” she said. “Kaya tinatawag nila akong ate dahil andun na ‘ko e, alam nila ‘yung experience ko ang dami kong pinagdaanan.
“Siguro ‘yun nakita nila, na, ‘Ay, si ate nga ilang beses na nag-Olympics four times’ … nakita nila ang dami kong pinagdaanan. At hopefully it will serve as inspiration sa kanila na wag sumuko.”
There’s no question that Diaz has become a source of inspiration for many Filipino athletes, for she is just the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist after ruling the women’s 55-kg category in Tokyo.
But before becoming the champ that she is, the Zamboanga native had to go through rough waters, beginning with an 11th-place finish in the 2008 Olympics and a DNF (Did Not Finish) in the following Games in London.
She then finished with silver in the 2016 edition in Rio de Janeiro, the country’s first Olympic medal in 20 years. And the ultimate prize finally came five years later, cementing her spot as one of the greatest Filipino athletes ever.
The journey that she had is what boxer Eumir Marcial is using to fuel his own aspirations in collecting his own Olympic gold medal.
“Nagbigay siya ng inspirasyon sa amin na yung process, kailangan talaga,” said the men’s middleweight bronze medalist who is also from Zamboanga. “Si Carlo [Paalam] first Olympics, ako first Olympics ko, si Nesthy [Petecio], nakuha namin ‘yung medal.
“Pero ‘yung proseso nito, ang layo. Ten years na po ako sa national team, hindi ako nag-qualify nung last Olympics, ang dami ring tournament na natalo ako hindi ko nakuha yung gold.
“Pero tuloy-tuloy pa rin, so ‘yung proseso talaga yung kailangan,” added the former AIBA world champion.
Nesthy Petecio, meanwhile, doesn’t actually call Diaz ‘ate’ like the others since she’s only a year younger than her. But she calls her ‘Champ,’ and just like Marcial, is also very much inspired by the icon.
“Never ko tinawag si Champ Haidie na Ate eh, parang naiilang ako kasi isang taon lang naman yung lamang niya sa kin. So ang tawag ko talaga sa kanya Champ. Yun talaga. Kasi sobrang nakaka-inspire po talaga siya,” said the native of Davao del Sur.
Petecio, who gave the country its first Olympic medal in women’s boxing, remembers being in awe when she learned about Diaz taking part in the Beijing Olympics at 17 — and seeing her in printed materials.
“Nung bago pa lang po ako sa national team, nakikita ko na siya sa mga tarpaulin, nadidisplay na siya roon sa Philippine Sports Commission, so sabi ko, ‘Ang galing niya,‘” said the bemedaled featherweight.
“Lalo pa nung nag-Olympics siya — 17 ka pa ata Champ nung nakapasok ka. Grabe, ang bata niya pa. Sabi ko, gusto ko rin sumunod na sa ganung edad–or anong edad gusto ko makapasok sa Olympics,” she continued.
“Nakaka-inspire po talaga. Sabi ko pag nakikita ko siya sa mga naka-display dun sa PSC o kung saan, sabi ko gusto ko rin yung mukha ko makita ko rin sa tarpaulin o sa kung saan. Sobrang nai-inspire po talaga ako sa kanya.”
But like Marcial and all the other athletes, what Petecio really aims for is the gold, like what ‘Champ Haidie’ has in her rich collection.